In Luke 19:11-27 Jesus tells a fascinating parable. In this story, the master calls ten of his servants and gives each of them ten minas – a mina was about three months wages – and the master tells them, “Engage in business until I come!” After the master becomes King he returns to find the first servant doubled what he gave him, ending up with 20 minas, the next servant earned five minas more, but the third servant did nothing.
Why didn’t this guy do anything with what he was given? What reason did he give?
“I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man…” Do you see how his concept of his master influenced what he did (and didn’t!) do?!
A.W. Tozer stated, “What comes to our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Why? Because it’s not just a matter of thinking! What we think about God greatly impacts what we do and don’t do!
What is your concept of God?
That can be a fascinating question to ask others. Once when my husband asked a group of college students, one replied, “He’s like a proctor. Always looking to see if you’re behaving right and every once in a while coming along, giving you hints to help you not make mistakes.”
Who wants to spend time with a proctor?! Do you see how key it is to find out what people’s concept of God is? Especially if we are inviting them into a personal relationship with Him.
But this is also true for believers – though we may have more difficulty articulating it. Thoughts of what our concept should be can often muddy us recognizing what it is – but much can be discerned from how we live and the choices we do or don’t make.
Whenever I start meeting one on one with someone this is always a key thing I’m seeking to determine – not necessarily by asking outright, but through observation. Can this ever give great insight into how to make the best use of our time.
Is she struggling with anger? bitterness? or anxiety? Struggling with wanting to control her life? Struggling feeling like she needs to be protective of her time, her energy, her resources, herself?
To just say, “stop it!” doesn’t help! There is far more going on than the behavior. In fact, if you focus on the behavior you may very well miss truly being of help discipling her. Remember the goal in discipling is to help someone learn how to do what she’s said “yes” to! To help someone learn how to follow Jesus and keep learning from Him in a life-changing, transformational way.
Now it may not always be possible to identify exactly where her concept of God is off – in truth, I’m not sure if this side of heaven anyone ever has a totally accurate concept of God. But just realizing there’s something amiss that’s hindering her from running in the path of His commands can really help get you going in the right direction – focusing on who the Lord truly is.
One of my favorite ways to do this (because it doesn’t just benefit those I’m meeting with but so fortifies my soul each time I do it!) is to take her to the first chapter of Genesis with colored pencils in hand. So many times when people think about this chapter either the creation-evolution debate comes to mind or the focus is on what was created.
But if you read through Genesis 1 together highlighting with a colored pencil each time God’s name is mentioned (or a pronoun referring to Him) does it ever become evident this chapter is primarily about Him! As one friend exclaimed, “He’s mentioned in nearly every verse!”
And I share how God is the main character in the Bible. Take any Bible story, for example, David and Goliath – that story isn’t primarily about David or Goliath but about the Lord. If it wasn’t for Him there would’ve been no story! Same thing regarding Jonah and the Big Fish! Without God, Jonah would’ve ended up a tasty meal!
So Genesis really is the Lord introducing Himself. If you never knew anything about Him but just had Genesis 1 and 2, it’s amazing what you can learn! Rather than giving a list of attributes, in these opening chapters God lets us see Him in action! First in all His power and majesty and wisdom creating everything, then through a smaller snapshot revealing how personal and relational He truly is.
So next we read back through Genesis 1 with a different colored pencil in hand, underlining all the verbs that tells us what God does. Afterwards we take a sheet of paper and make three columns on it. As we start sharing what we learn about God from Genesis 1, we write each observation down in the first column. Then we consider what are the implications for our life that He is this way?
Oh how I love doing this with people!!! It is so beautiful to camp out considering who the Lord has revealed Himself to be and why He’s chosen to reveal this!
Once we’re done I encourage my friend to take time on her own to go back through the list and consider how she has personally experienced the Lord being each of these things and to write out the stories, her stories that come to mind! What a powerful way to spend extended time alone with the Lord!
Then we close our time praying back and forth through our list of observations, praising God for who we’ve seen Him to be in Genesis 1 and in that context sharing whatever is on our hearts with Him.
It’s like the old story about counterfeit money – the best way to learn how to identify it is to become familiar with the real thing! The best way to identify counterfeit ways we think about God isn’t to focus on where we’re off, but to focus, meditate and reflect on who He has revealed Himself to be – both in His Word as well as personally to us through our experiences of Him.
In the parable the landowner actually casts out the unproductive servant into outer darkness for not investing his talent. That proves he really was a severe man.
Hi Jules! Thanks so much for sharing your observation! Here is a thought to consider… Just because he dealt severely with the servant who did nothing does that prove he is a severe man?
This parable begins with a nobleman who gives ten minas to his servants. Since a mina is equivalent to about three months wages – well, it may help to put that into today’s terms. Consider – someone working today full time at the federal minimum minimum wage of $7.25 (this varies from state to state) would make $3,480 working 40 hours a week for three months. Now considering this nobleman gave ten of his servants ten minas that would be like giving each of them today $34,800 to engage in business. That means before he left on his journey he doled out what today would be a total of $348,000! Now it’s important to remember he gave this to his servants. Imagine if your boss entrusted you with $34,800 and said your job was to use it to engage in business – if your boss returned and found one of your co-workers had doubled that during the time and ended up with $69,800 and another had increased it by half, increasing the amount to the sum of $52,200 and then you come up and say you’ve made no increase, in fact you haven’t done at all what your boss asked you to do – would you consider your boss severe if he fired you? In this account of the parable he simply took the money from the guy who did nothing and gave it to the servant who got the highest yield on his investment. Can we fault him for doing that? (sidenote: Hopefully I got the math right on this – not exactly my area of gifting! :0)
And what does it say about the nobleman in this story that he goes out of his way to give ten of his servants an opportunity like this? Note his intent doesn’t seem to be as much about the minas increasing as he’s giving them an opportunity for their abilities to be revealed. After they report, those who have been faithful in little, end up gaining authority over cities! Here is a nobleman giving an incredible opportunity for advancement to his servants! Does that sound severe? Or does it sound wise and kind?!
Now obviously Jesus is telling this story for another purpose – on one hand to point out how important it is to be faithful in little! That it really is a preparation for something greater! But most importantly it illustrates a great truth about God found in Psalm 18:25-26 “With the merciful you show yourself merciful, with the blameless you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.”
How do you think those first two servants experienced this nobleman? I bet they were thankful to be in his employ and considered him to be a very benevolent master! But for the servant who didn’t do what his master asked… well, he had a very different experience!
For myself, I am severely hearing impaired, having lost 97% of my hearing. But you know the Lord hasn’t let me retreat into isolation. In fact, it seems the worse my hearing gets the more He asks me to step out of my comfort zone and do things that initially bring a lot of fear into my heart.
Just imagine what it’s like to teach large groups of people when you can’t hear their responses? Or to attend meetings where He has specific things He wants me to say but I can’t even follow the dialogue going on! Or to film videos after people have commented upon learning of my hearing loss, “Oh, that’s why your voice sounds so nasally!”
I’d lost 80% of my hearing when the Lord led us to come on staff with The Navigators (that was 15 years ago) and we were asked to help pioneer a new ministry on a campus ~ so there were no students waiting eagerly to meet with us! I had to constantly initiate conversations not knowing whether I’d be able to understand people’s responses or not. It was incredibly out of my comfort zone! And I’ll be honest, I really struggled with feeling like God was being severe.
But then I attended a workshop on coping with hearing loss and learned that as people lose more of their hearing their world tends to get smaller because of fear and pride – fear of saying the wrong thing or looking foolish and pride from not wanting to ask for help or look helpless! And the Lord affirmed – “I don’t want your world to shrink! You are here because I love you! My grace is sufficient for you! And I am so able to make it abound so that in all things at all times having all that you need you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8) Over and over through the years have I ever experienced this to be so true!
And this is the amazing thing… While I would never ever wish a hearing loss on anyone, I experience the Lord so much because of my handicap! And each time He asks me to do something that scares me to death He is right there with me, helping me, enabling me to do whatever He asks me to do.
If you don’t do what He asks, He sure can appear severe! (especially regarding eternity – check out 2 Thessalonians 1:7b-9!) But when you do, well, it’s like a heart surgeon – he may cause pain cutting you open, but He’s not doing it to harm you, but to save your life!
Thanks so much for the reply. I see now the master in the parable was just to do what he did.